Where Has All the Compassion Gone?

February 11, 2014

I wanted to talk about something that seriously bugs me. I have lived a plant-centric lifestyle for more than 25 years and people rarely knew it. I always told myself it was because I disliked labels, so ‘macrobiotic,’ ‘vegan…’whatever was off my list of things to call myself.

But that’s not entirely true…actually not true at all. Having lived as part of both of these communities for many years, I think it’s time to have the discussion about compassion, a word thrown about by both vegans and macrobiotics that seems to have little to do with the actual living of a healthy compassionate lifestyle.

In macrobiotics, we say that by living according to the laws of nature, we are choosing to create a bigger life, one steeped in ancient wisdom, compassion and freedom of choice. And yet, I repeatedly see a kind of ‘them and us’ attitude that excludes anyone not of the same mind as us. I was always taught that, in accordance with macrobiotic thinking, we are all part of one whole…all connected to each other and that what happens to one happens to all.

So why the exclusion of anyone not choosing this lifestyle? How can we ever hope to achieve ‘oneness’ if we continually set ourselves up as superior and better because we choose to eat brown rice? Do we really think we are better, smarter, on the fast track to enlightenment? How can we ever hope to attract people to our gorgeous lifestyle if we refuse to let them in because they don’t know or understand it?

And then there’s vegan, another label I proudly wear…except when people are yelling at other people for their choices. When books like ‘Skinny Bitch’ can thrive, where has compassion gone? I cringed my way through all the books in this series and realized that they were quite successful in conveying their message…that you are a fat and stupid waste of skin if you are not vegan. Really? These Dr. Phil-like authors set themselves up as paragons of virtue and goodness as they demean their fellow humans. There is enough in life to make us feel bad about ourselves. I don’t know about you, but belittling language, funny as it may be to others, is not my cup of tea and not the way I want to be perceived.

As a committed compassionate human, I am deeply concerned about the way we treat our animals…and how we produce them for food. If we think for one moment that farming and producing more than 10 billion animals for food annually can be done in a compassionate, healthy and humane way, then we are more out of touch with reality than I feared.

But I also care deeply for human health. As vegans or macrobiotic people who say they are committed to health…human health, planetary health and spiritual health, how can we justify reserving all of our compassion for animals and serving up only disdain for people? How can we hope to enlighten people and help them to see when we are constantly blinding them by shaking our fingers in their faces? How can we hope to achieve harmony when we care only for the welfare of some animals and not for the welfare of others (humans, for example…)?

Most vegans tell me that I am not ‘vegan enough’ for their taste because I refuse to berate people who wear fur (as gross as that is to me…that is their karma); I don’t protest with violence; I don’t feel contempt for anyone not playing in my sandbox.

I prefer the philosophy of catching more bees with honey (pun intended…). If we are peaceful, attractive, inviting and open to all we meet, do we not stand a much better chance of them hearing what we have to say and thereby effecting greater change? Seriously, who wants to be scolded? And who wants to scold? It’s exhausting to be so self-righteous…for us and those who must endure us.

For me, the time of ‘them and us’ is over. It’s time for all those who live compassionate lives to show their fellow humans the same compassion we show to cows, pigs, chickens, puppies and kittens. Compassion opens the door for understanding and with understanding people can…and will…make better choices. But they can’t…and won’t…if they are constantly under attack, made to feel that they are inferior to us more ‘enlightened’ types and left feeling that they are less than worthless.

Compassion is not selective, but the gift of all sentient beings to each other. Think about it…